- UN Environment unveiled a new report on Tuesday, "Single-use Plastics: A Roadmap for Sustainability," that offers a global outlook on the "state of plastics" using data and case studies from more than 60 countries.
- The report lists grave statistics about plastic waste (79% of all of the plastic waste produced globally has been landfilled) and information about the success of various plastic packaging bans and regulations (30% of countries that have enacted bans on plastic bags saw "dramatic drops" in plastic pollution and plastic bag consumption within one year).
- The report also included 10 recommendations for countries looking to curb single-use plastics: target the most problematic plastics; consider best actions according to socio-economic standing; assess the impacts; engage stakeholders; raise public awareness; promote alternatives; provide incentives' use revenues to maximize the public good; enforce the measure and monitor.
The report, released on World Environment Day, also coincides with World Oceans Day. In a statement, UN Environment Head Erik Solheim wrote, "Our oceans have been used as a dumping ground, choking marine life and transforming some marine areas into a plastic soup."
Happy #WorldOceansDay! ????????????????— UN Environment (@UNEnvironment) June 8, 2018
We all have a responsibility to use the resources provided by our oceans sustainably because future generations will also depend on the oceans for their livelihoods. ????????????????????????
Our ocean is our future. https://t.co/azoSPsjS8H pic.twitter.com/O2pFXlat7Y
Since World Oceans Day 2017, countries have taken significant action on plastic waste, with some countries even "racing" each other toward more sustainable futures. Nations such as the U.K. have pledged millions in funding to reduce plastic waste, while others, such as Singapore, have formed partnerships to invest in recycling solutions. The EU has even proposed banning all single-use plastics and requiring products be made from sustainable materials.
Some action has also been motivated by social media-driven trends, such as campaigns to ban the use of plastic straws. These viral calls to action have attracted high-profile influencers to join in on the movements, which can increase consumer interest and buy-in.
The U.S. has a lot to learn from the UN report, as it currently lacks any national plastic policies — outside of an Obama-era ban on microbeads — and most relevant packaging regulation occurs at the state or local level. Additionally, many U.S. plastics manufacturers have strongly opposed local initiatives to ban plastic packaging, which has limited the reach of such regulations. While action from city and state leaders could influence national policy in the future, the U.S. faces a long road ahead before catching up to the progress of other developed nations.